2009 Suzuki XL7 Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Trevor Wild Trevor Wild Author
July 3, 2009

A major redesign in 2007 transformed the Suzuki XL7 into a modern mid-size crossover with available seven-passenger seating. For 2009 the XL7 gains a six-speed automatic transmission that helps deliver an almost 10 percent increase in fuel economy.

TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new Suzuki XL7 in order to give you an expert opinion. TheCarConnection.com's crossover experts researched available road tests on the new Suzuki XL7 to produce this conclusive review and to help you find the truth where other reviews might differ.

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 should especially appeal to families who want a roomy vehicle with a small third-row seat for occasional use but not the higher sticker price or extra fuel expenses of larger SUVs.

Five-passenger seating is standard on the base, Premium, and Luxury models of the 2009 XL7 with seven-passenger seating optional, except for the Limited trim level where seven-passenger seating is the standard arrangement. The seven-passenger models add a 50/50-split folding third-row bench large enough for small children only. Entry and exit are quite difficult, but the third row can be folded flat into the floor when not in use. The second row folds forward, as does the front passenger seat's backrest for accommodating very long items.

In addition to a handsome exterior design, the 2009 Suzuki XL7 boasts a standard 3.6-liter, 252-horsepower V-6 engine teamed up with a new six-speed automatic with manual shift capability. Suzuki claims the XL7 can accelerate from 0-60 in less than eight seconds—a big improvement over the previous model. The XL7 rides and handles much like a mid-size sedan, with a relatively soft, smooth ride and handling that's safe but not at all sporty.

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Front-wheel drive is standard, though the available all-wheel-drive system is good for slippery road situations, sending up to 50 percent of power to the back wheels when the fronts slip. With either drive system, the 2009 Suzuki XL7 has brisk acceleration compared to other crossover SUVs, with quiet cruising and quick downshifts for passing power.

The carlike four-wheel independent suspension uses MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear. Seven-passenger models get a load-leveling Nivomat rear suspension that's useful for those who plan to tow or haul heavy loads; tow capacity is rated at up to 3,500 pounds.

Standard safety features include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, front seat-mounted side airbags, and side-curtain rollover-sensing bags. Crash-test results are very good, garnering top five-star results in all of the federal government's tests, along with "good" and "acceptable" results for frontal and side impact, respectively, from the IIHS. Rear impact protection is rated "marginal," however.

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 is closely related to the older version of the Saturn Vue, the Chevrolet Equinox, and the Pontiac Torrent, but is arguably the best equipped of them. All 2009 Suzuki XL7s include automatic climate control, keyless entry, roof rails, and alloy wheels, while at the top of the range, the Limited brings many more features, such as power heated front seats, a touch-screen navigation system, a rearview camera, fog lamps, chrome wheels, and a premium sound system.

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2009 Suzuki XL7

Styling

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 is a sleek, fully modern crossover vehicle, but it's not exciting to look at.

Most reviewers read by TheCarConnection.com’s editors agree the appearance of the 2009 Suzuki XL7 is attractive, but not everyone likes the interior.

Reviewers aren’t impressed with the overall Suzuki 2009 decor. Car and Driver reports that the Suzuki XL7 interior "is available with faux wood or satin nickel trim." To the reviewer at Autoblog, "the plastic that comprises the lower portion of the dashboard and the door panels looks like a remnant from some 1970s house of funk, and overall there are more textures and finishes in the interior than there should be." The Auto Channel has a vaguely positive comment, adding that there are "plenty of interior lights."

Regarding the exterior, reviewers at MotherProof simply note that the Suzuki XL7 "looks great...the sporty front grille promises a fun ride, while the sleek lines of the body hint at luxuries within." Kelley Blue Book says "with a styling combination of SUV and station wagon, the sleek 2009 Suzuki XL7 has a balanced exterior with triangular headlamps among its most noticeable features." Autoblog opines that the exterior design of the XL7 is "striving toward distinctive, recognizable styling."

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2009 Suzuki XL7

Performance

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 is above average in overall performance, but again, it's not particularly exciting.

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 has plenty of power for its class, though its handling won’t suit hotfoots.

For 2009 Suzuki replaces the old five-speed transmission with a six-speed automatic featuring manumatic shifting. The new transmission improves fuel economy upward of 10 percent with EPA estimates of 17/24 mpg for city/highway and upward of 5 percent for all-wheel-drive models with EPA estimates of 16/23 mpg city/highway. The official EPA fuel economy ratings are 15 mpg in city driving and 22 mpg on the highway in the all-wheel-drive version, and 16/22 mpg in the front-wheel-drive models.

ConsumerGuide praises the six-speed transmission: "ultra-smooth automatic transmission kicks down promptly for swift passing, and it always seems to be in the right gear. Its manual shift gate is helpful in mountain driving." Cars.com points out that the engine in the 2009 Suzuki XL7 "teams with a six-speed automatic transmission with a clutchless manual mode," which Autoblog says is "geared tall for fuel economy" and offers "serenity at speed."

According to ConsumerGuide, the Suzuki XL7 "has ample power from any speed, with little difference between 2WD and AWD versions." Autoblog remarks that "acceleration is plenty quick...[it] managed to sprint one through the quarter mile in 16 seconds flat, and they found 60 mph in 7.7 seconds." Cars.com reports that the Suzuki XL7's engine is a "252-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 designed by GM and built by Suzuki...towing capacity is rated at 3,500 pounds."

When it comes to handling, ConsumerGuide notes "comfort-biased suspension means marked body lean that demands slow speeds when entering corners...steering has a numb, artificial feel, [and] a wide turning circle complicates close-quarters maneuvering." Autoblog acknowledges that "there's no mistaking this vehicle for a sports car," but contends "handling is competent without excessive roll, dive, or squat, and it clings well to the tarmac...steering is weighted nearly perfectly, if devoid of feedback, and the XL7 drives with solid composure." Edmunds also reports "soft suspension settings result in cornering performance that's hardly sport." On the other hand, Kelley Blue Book says "steering is responsive, even on unpaved roads...[on a] severe washboard road there was, naturally, some shake and vibration but the XL7 Limited we tested ran straight and sure."

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2009 Suzuki XL7

Comfort & Quality

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 offers a good level of interior comfort, but up close it's not as satisfying.

The 2009 Suzuki XL7’s seating and storage/cargo space make up for its iffy materials and noise levels.

Autoblog says "materials in the cabin of the [Suzuki] XL7 unfortunately don't do the build quality justice...cheap pieces assembled well are still cheap pieces at the end of the day." ConsumerGuide gives the Suzuki interior materials a solid grade of "C," reporting that "cabin materials and finish are just OK...slightly odd texturing on the lower dash and door panels gives the cabin a budget-grade feel."

According to Edmunds, storage and carrying space are more than adequate: "60/40-split-folding middle-row seats tumble and fold, and the optional 50/50-split third-row seat can be folded flat into the floor for additional cargo-carrying room," offering "an impressive maximum cargo capacity of 95.2 cubic feet." ConsumerGuide notes "only grocery-bag space behind the 50/50 3rd-row seat, but that folds flat without removing the headrests." Autoblog offers an elegantly simple solution: "leave the seat at the dealer and there's a swell amount of cargo space."

Edmunds observes, "when it comes to head- and legroom, the XL7 is very roomy," but adds that "shoulder room...is narrower than that of most other midsize crossovers." Cars.com reports the Suzuki XL7 "can be equipped with five seats in two rows or seven seats in three rows."

According to ConsumerGuide, "the XL7's V6 is coarse during acceleration and never quiets completely...wind and road noise are well above the class norms." And though the ride is soft and compliant, noise levels prevent the 2009 Suzuki XL7 from receiving the highest scores in this category.

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2009 Suzuki XL7

Safety

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 scores well in crash tests, save for a lower side-impact rating from the insurance industry’s testing group.

In terms of safety, the 2009 Suzuki XL7 is near the top of its class.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the XL7 top ratings in its frontal offset test and the second-highest Acceptable rating in side-impact crash testing. The 2009 Suzuki XL7 earned five stars in all crash tests performed at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) except for rollover, in which it earned four.

According to Edmunds, Suzuki XL7 standard safety equipment includes "antilock brakes, stability control and traction control." Cars.com reports that the Suzuki XL7 also "comes with side curtain airbags [and] a tire pressure monitoring system."

Edmunds says that some Suzuki XL7 models "can be equipped with a parking camera displayed in the rearview mirror." This option is meant to counteract the lack of outward visibility. ConsumerGuide reports that this Suzuki 2009 vehicle's "rear roofline and small back window impede vision astern and to the right rear."

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2009 Suzuki XL7

Features

The 2009 Suzuki XL7 offers many standard features, but some tech options are missing and configurations are limited.

A couple of omissions in features keep the 2009 Suzuki XL7 wide open to improvement.

According to the Edmunds reviewer, the base trim "comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, tinted windows, auto on/off headlamps, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel, cruise control, automatic climate control, trip computer and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack," confirming the statement from Autoblog that this vehicle is "a well-equipped mid-size crossover at the sporty end of the spectrum."

Edmunds observes the "premium trim is similar, but adds 17-inch wheels, floor mats and available faux wood trim," and points out "the Luxury trim comes standard with leather upholstery, a power driver seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a sunroof and an in-dash six-CD changer."

Options "include a moonroof, a navigation system and a DVD entertainment system," but "unfortunately, buyers can pick only the nav or the entertainment system; they can't have both,” reports Cars.com. Other high-tech features such as Bluetooth and iPod connectivity are unavailable.

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7.8
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 7.0
Performance 7.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 9.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy N/A
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